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Review: Our Spoons Came From Woolworths, by Barbara Comyns

Pages: 223
Original date of publication: 1950
My edition: 1983 (Virago)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: February 2011

Our Spoons Came From Woolworths is the story of a young woman, Sophia, who marries an artist at a very young age. She and her husband Charles live in poverty, eventually having a child together. Sophia’s life becomes more exciting when she has an affair with an older art critique, but she eventually comes to regret bother her marriage and affair.

It’s a pretty depressing book; not much good happens to Sophia except for a little bit of a windfall towards the end. Sophia is the kind of character who allows things happen to her rather than the other way round, so I didn’t really feel any sympathy towards her—as awful as that sounds, considering what happens to her. Sophia’s narration is a bit flat sometimes; the story is presented in a very unemotional way. But This disaffected style serves the novel well, in a way; it highlights the chilliness of Charles and Sophia’s life together.

I also didn’t like Charles—he was too self-absorbed and too absorbed in his own world to pay much attention to his family. Part of his problem is his family, who don’t approve of the marriage in the first place (though it’s not so difficult to see why). It’s pretty clear from the outset that Sophia and Charles are ill-matched, but the interesting thing about this novel is how Sophia is going to get out of her situation. In the end, though, because I didn’t really care for many of the characters, I found myself skimming the end of the novel. Barbara Comyns was a skilled writer, but this, sadly, isn’t my favorite book.


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